Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland
Mr Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), today issued a report on the results of his audit of the 2012-13 accounts of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) is the regional housing authority for Northern Ireland and has a wide range of housing responsibilities including acting as landlord for housing stock of approximately 90,000 dwellings. The C&AG has again decided to qualify his audit opinion on the annual financial statements of the NIHE because of significant problems in the contract management of planned and response maintenance and the estimated level of fraud and error in Housing Benefit payments.
Key issues included in the C&AG’s report include:
- planned maintenance where it provides further detail on how the recent estimated amount of £18 million in contractor overpayments was calculated and some of the reasons why it arose (pages 6 to 7 of the report);
- the fact that the contractor overpayment issue, mainly relating to kitchen replacement schemes, was first raised internally in 2010, again in 2011 and was included in the C&AG’s report last year. The PAC also referred to this issue in its report on NIHE in February this year. The C&AG is disappointed that it has taken so long for NIHE to address these issues and notes the considerable degree of challenge by NIHE management to the initial findings (page 7);
- the findings of the NIHE’s Corporate Assurance Unit, responsible for reviewing contract management by NIHE staff, which has continued to provide significant numbers of ‘limited’ and ‘unacceptable’ opinions in its inspection of both planned and response maintenance work during 2012-13 (pages 2 to 5); and
- a significant increase in the estimated level of overpayments due to fraud and error within housing benefit which has increased from £10.2 million (1.8%) in 2011 to £20.8 million (3.4%) in 2012 (pages 11 to 14).